Tag Archives: Russell Ford

“The Twenty Greatest Fever”

2 Oct

In November of 1911, an interviewer asked industrialist Andrew Carnegie to name the 20 greatest men of all time.  Within days, Carnegie’s list was parsed and picked apart, and led to what The Chicago Daily News called “The twenty greatest fever.”

Lists of the twenty greatest everything appeared in papers across the country for the next year.  Of course, the question was put to many baseball figures and led to a number of interesting lists and quotes.

One of the first to weigh in was Chicago White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, in The Daily News:

  • Buck Ewing
  • King Kelly
  • Cap Anson
  • Charlie Ferguson
  • Fred Pfeffer
  • Eddie Collins
  • Honus Wagner
  • Jack Glasscock
  • Harry Lord
  • Ty Cobb
  • Fred Clarke
  • Willie Keeler
  • Tom McCarthy
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Charles Radbourn
  • Bobby Caruthers
  • Christy Mathewson
  •  Clark Griffith
  • Ed Walsh
comiskeypix

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey said Eddie Collins, who would acquire for $50,000 three years later, was the best current player:

“He’s got it on all the others in the game today.  I don’t know that a good lawyer went to waste, but do know that a mighty good ballplayer was found when Eddie decided to give up the technicalities of Blackstone for the intricacies of baseball.   There isn’t much use saying anything about Connie Mack’s star, everybody knows he is a wonder as well as I do.”

Cy Young was asked by The Cleveland News to name his 20 greatest:

“I guess we’d have to make a place for old Amos Rusie, ‘Kid’ Nichols should be placed on the list too, ‘Kid’ forgot more baseball than 90 percent of us ever knew.  And there was Bill Hutchinson, just about one of the greatest that ever lived.  You can’t overlook Walter Johnson, and, by all means Ed Walsh must be there.  The same applies to Mathewson.  Then comes my old side partner, Bill Dinneen.  Bill never was given half enough credit.”

amosrusie

Amos Rusie

Young rounded out the battery:

“I’d pick old Lou Criger first of all the catchers.  George Gibson of the Pittsburgh team, to my way of thinking, stands with the leaders.  Give the third place to Oscar Stanage of Detroit, and I feel safe in saying that I have chosen a really great catcher.”

Young said:

“Doping out the infields is comparatively easy.  Without hesitation I would name Hal Chase, Eddie Collins, Nap Lajoie, Hans Wagner, Bobby Wallace, Jimmy Collins, Herman Long, and Charlie Wagner.”

Young said of his infield choices:

“You can’t get away from Bobby Wallace for a general all round gentlemanly player, he has never had a superior at shortstop unless that man was Honus Wagner.  Maybe Johnny Evers is entitles to consideration, but I never say him play.”

As for his outfielders, Young said:

“Ty Cobb’s equal never lived, according to my way of thinking, and I doubt if we will ever have his superior.  Say what they will about Cobb, but one who is true to himself must acknowledge his right to rank above all other players.

“I chose Cobb, Fred Clarke of Pittsburgh, Tris Speaker of Boston and Bill Lange for the outfield, and regret that the limitations prevent me from choosing Jim McAleer.  McAleer was the best fielder I have ever seen.  I say that with all due respect to Cobb and other competitors.

“Tris Speaker is a marvel, and only because of his playing at the same time as Cobb is he deprived of the honor of being the greatest outfielder…Many fans of today probably don’t remember Bill Lange.  Take my word for it, he was a marvel.  He could field, bat, and run bases with wonderful skill.  No man ever had the fade-away slide better than Lange.”

The reporter from The News noticed that Young had, “chosen his twenty greatest players without mentioning his own great deeds,” and asked Young whether her felt he belonged on the list.  Young said:

“Oh, I’ve heard a whole lot of stuff about myself as a player, but I was but ordinary when compared to the men I name as the greatest in the game.”

cy

Cy Young

When Ty Cobb presented his list of the 20 greatest current American League players to The Detroit News, the paper noted his “Very becoming modesty” in leaving himself off of his list.  Cobb’s picks were:

  • Ed Walsh
  • Bill Donovan
  • Walter Johnson
  • Jack Coombs
  • Vean Gregg
  • George Mullin
  • Billy Sullivan
  • Oscar Stanage
  • Ira Thomas
  • Hal Chase
  • Napoleon Lajoie
  • Eddie Collins
  • Jack Berry
  • Owen Bush
  • Frank Baker
  • Harry Lord
  • Sam Crawford
  • Clyde Milan
  • Joe Jackson
  • Tris Speaker
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Ty Cobb

Cobb included Bobby Wallace, Russ Ford, and Heinie Wagner as honorable mentions.

More of the lists and quotes from “The twenty greatest fever,” on Thursday

Lost Advertisements–Ed Sweeney for Sweet Caporal

15 Jan

sweeneyad

A 1914 advertisement for Sweet Caporal Cigarettes featuring New York Yankee catcher Ed “Jeff” Sweeney:

“In every line-up of the cigarette league champions, you’ll find good old steady sweet Caporal playing first.”

Three years later, while playing for the Toledo Iron Men in the American Association, Sweeney told a reporter about his former teammate Russell Ford, and the development of the Emery Ball.

Sweeney and Ford were teammates with the Atlanta Crackers in the Southern Association in 1907:

“One day while Sweeney was catching Ford in a warm up stunt before a game Russ made a wild peg and the ball bounded into a concrete pillar.

“‘I didn’t know anything about it,’ explains Sweeney, “but after that, I noticed the ball breaking in a peculiar way.  I remarked about it to Ford, but he didn’t appear interested.  I never saw (Ford throw it) again that season.

“‘I was purchased that summer by the Yankees (he joined the team in 1908).  Owner (Frank) Farrell came to me one day and asked who was the best pitcher in the Southern Association.  I told him Ford.  And Russ was drafted.'”

After an unsuccessful one-game trial with Yankees in 1909, Ford spent the remainder of the 1909 season with the Jersey City Skeeters in the Eastern League.  When Sweeney and Ford were reunited the next spring with the Yankees, Ford told the catcher he “‘(H)ad a ball no catcher in the world could receive.  I laughed at him but he persisted.'”

Sweeney said Ford “‘took me into his confidence'” and explained his new pitch, Ford told Sweeney that day in Atlanta he noticed the effect the damage caused by the ball hitting the concrete post had on his ability to make it curve, and he continued experimenting:

“‘Russ showed me a little leather ring that he slipped over a finger of his left hand…All he had to do was to scratch the ball with the emery, that was pasted to the leather…The bigger the scratch the greater the freak jumps the ball would take…He would fake a spitter, and nobody ever got wise.  When he pitched he always requested that I catch him.’

“‘When Russ threw the ball with runners on or in pinches, no batter in the world could hit it.  Once in while somebody did, but it was by accident…I’ve seen batter after batter miss the ball a foot.'”

 

 

Lost Advertisements–“Fireball” Johnson

30 Oct

walterjonsoncoke1915

“‘Fireball’  Johnson Drinks Coca-Cola–Says it’s the greatest drink ever for a hot, tired, and thirsty pitcher. All the stars in every  line of work star Coca-Cola–so will you.”

In 1913, The Washington Times presented Walter Johnson with a cup honoring him as “Greatest Pitcher in the World,” and published a special section including quotes from his contemporaries:

Cup presented to Johnson by The Washington Times

Cup presented to Johnson by The Washington Times

Napoleon Lajoie:

“I like to bat against Johnson.  There’s some satisfaction hitting against a hurler of such pronounced class.  When I make a hit off Johnson I know it’s well-earned, and the sound of a good, solid swat made off one of Walter’s curves is the most welcome music I hear during the season.”

George Stovall:

“I consider Walter Johnson the greatest pitcher in the game today and one of the finest fellows on and off the ball field.”

Nixey Callahan:

“You may say anything good for me regarding Walter Johnson that you care to. I consider him one of the greatest pitchers that the game has ever known and an ornament to the profession in every way.”

Russ Ford:

“He is the King Pin of them all, and yet remains just the same quiet, good fellow who broke in six years ago.”

Joe Birmingham

“May your curve always break and your speed never diminish.”

Lost Advertisements–Federal League Notables–Cy Falkenberg

4 Oct

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One in a series of several 1915 advertisements from the Victor Sporting Goods Company featuring Federal League players.  Victor produced the league’s official baseball.

Frederick “Cy” Falkenberg made one of baseball’s great comebacks.  After an injury plagued 1911 season (8-5 in just fifteen games) the Cleveland Naps sold Falkenberg’s contract to the Toledo Mud Hens in the American Association.  The 32-year-old pitcher developed a pitch that saved his career; Hal Sheridan of The United Press said Falkenberg had begun “tossing a sand-papered sphere to the batters.”

Once he started throwing the Emery Ball Falkenberg went 25-8 with a 1.95 ERA at Toledo, and after returning to Cleveland the following season he was 23-10 with a 2.22 ERA.  Falkenberg jumped to the Indianapolis Hoosiers in the Federal League in 1914; he was 25-16 with a 2.22 ERA for the pennant-winning Hoosiers.

By the time this ad appeared the Federal League had banned the Emery Ball and Falkenberg had split the 1915 season between the Newark Peppers (the relocated Hoosiers) and the Brooklyn Tip-Tops; he was a combined 12-14 with 2.86 ERA.

Russell Ford, who pitched in the American and Federal Leagues from 1909-1915, is generally credited with developing the Emery Ball, but at least one American League pitcher said Ford didn’t deserve credit for the invention.  Bill Steen told The Pittsburgh Press in 1915 that John “Wee Willie” Sudhoff had shown him how to throw the pitch in 1907:

“He had a strip of emery paper glued on the heel of his glove and rubbed the ball on it.”

Sudhoff had retired after the 1906 season, so it’s unclear where and exactly when he would have shared the pitch with Steen.

Cy Falkenberg

Cy Falkenberg